"Stop it or I'll leave."
"Hey, that was meant as a compliment. Anyway, she's crazy about me, but her mother and father are very social, and they hate me." Ashley made no comment.
"So the thing is, if I push it, she'll marry me, but she'll alienate her family. She's really close to them, and if I marry her, they'll sure as hell disown her. Then one day, she'll probably blame me. Do you see the problem?"
Ashley took another sip of wine. "Yes. I..." After that, time seemed to vanish in a mist.
She awakened slowly, knowing that something was terribly wrong. She felt as though she had been drugged. It was an enormous effort merely to open her eyes. Ashley looked around the room and began to panic. She was lying in a bed, naked, in a cheap hotel room. She managed to sit up, and her head started to pound. She had no idea where she was or how she had gotten there. There was a room service menu on the nightstand, and she reached over and picked it up. The Chicago Loop Hotel. She read it again, stunned. What am I doing in Chicago? How long have I been here? The visit to Dennis Tibble's apartment had been on Friday. What day is this? With growing alarm, she picked up the telephone. "May I help you?"
It was difficult for Ashley to speak. "What - what day is this?"
"Today is the seventeenth of - "
"No. I mean what day of the week is this?"
"Oh. Today is Monday. Can I - " Ashley replaced the receiver in a daze. Monday. She had lost two days and two nights. She sat up at the edge of the bed, trying to remember. She had gone to Dennis Tibble's apartment.... She had had a glass of wine.... After that, everything was a blank.
He had put something in her glass of wine that had made her temporarily lose her memory. She had read about incidents where a drug like that had been used. It was called the "date rape drug." That was what he had given her. The talk about wanting her advice had been a ruse. And like a fool, I fell for it. She had no recollection of going to the airport, flying to Chicago or checking into this seedy hotel room with Tibble. And worse - no recollection of what had happened in this room.
I've got to get out of here, Ashley thought desperately. She felt unclean, as though every inch of her body had been violated. What had he done to her? Trying not to think about it, she got out of bed, walked into the tiny bathroom and stepped into the shower. She let the stream of hot water pound against her body, trying to wash away whatever terrible, dirty things had happened to her. What if he had gotten her pregnant? The thought of having his child was sickening. Ashley got out of the shower, dried herself and walked over to the closet. Her clothes were missing. The only things inside the closet were a black leather miniskirt, a cheap-looking tube top and a pair of spiked high-heeled shoes. She was repelled by the thought of putting on the clothes, but she had no choice. She dressed quickly and glanced in the mirror. She looked like a prostitute.
Ashley examined her purse. Only forty dollars. Her checkbook and credit card were still there. Thank God!
She went out into the corridor. It was empty. She took the elevator down to the seedy-looking lobby and walked over to the checkout desk, where she handed the elderly cashier her credit card.
"Leavin' us already?" He leered. "Well, you had a good time, hub?"
Ashley stared at him, wondering what he meant and afraid to find out. She was tempted to ask him when Dennis Tibble had checked out, but she decided it was better not to bring it up.
The cashier was putting her credit card through a machine. He frowned and put it through again. Finally, he said, "I'm sorry. This card won't go through. You've exceeded your limit."
Ashley's mouth dropped open. "That's impossible! There's some mistake!"
The clerk shrugged. "Do you have another credit card?"
"No. I - I don't Will you take a personal check?" He was eyeing her outfit disapprovingly. "I guess so, if you have some ID."
"I need to make a telephone call...."
"Telephone booth in the corner."
"San Francisco Memorial Hospital..."
"Dr. Steven Patterson."
"One moment, please..."
"Dr. Patterson's office."
"Sarah? This is Ashley. I need to speak to my father."
"I'm sorry. Miss Patterson. He's in the operating room and - "
Ashley's grip tightened on the telephone. "Do you know how long he'll be there?"
"It's hard to say. I know he has another surgery scheduled after - "
Ashley found herself fighting hysteria. "I need to talk to him. It's urgent. Can you get word to him, please? As soon as he gets a chance, have him call me." She looked at the telephone number in the booth and gave it to her father's receptionist. "I'll wait here until he calls."
"I'll be sure to tell him."
She sat in the lobby for almost an hour, willing the telephone to ring. People passing by stared at her or ogled her, and she felt naked in the tawdry outfit she was wearing. When the phone finally rang, it startled her. She hurried back into the phone booth. "Hello..."
"Ashley?" It was her father's voice. "Oh, Father, I - "
"I'm in Chicago and - "
"What are you doing in Chicago?"
"I can't go into it now. I need an airline ticket to San Jose. I don't have any money with me. Can you help me?"
"Of course. Hold on." Three minutes later, her father came back on the line. "There's an American Airlines plane leaving O'Hare at ten-forty A.M., Flight 407. There will be a ticket waiting for you at the check-in counter. I'll pick you up at the airport in San Jose and - "